Week 6: Fourth of July

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Sunday, July 6, 2014


Nick Durofchalk

With the fourth of July coming quicker than I could anticipate, the work week flew by way to fast. Caleb and I, with a sigh of relief, finished our first pass cataloguing, documenting, printing, and analyzing the entirety of the usable IUE spectrograph data. But before we could finish that sigh, we were given additional, exciting tasks and new data with which to work. Our new assignment is to examine data taken around the year 2004 by STIS (Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph) onboard the Hubble Space Telescope. By The end of the week on Thursday, I was able to get acquainted with the IDL tools that allow me to manipulate and analyze the data. These tools will prepare me to eventually compare the spectral information taken by STIS to spectral information taken by IUE at similar phases (albeit during different cycles) in the Eta Carinae's orbital period. As the work week came to a close, and a brutal rainstorm just barely missed Goddard Space Flight Center, my girlfriend drove down to DC for a second visit to pick me up from work and the three day holiday weekend began.

On Friday, it was the fourth of July. With the sun overhead, my girlfriend and I biked down to the National Mall with backpacks full of pretzels, beef jerky, blueberries, and other snacks. There, we met up with a handful of other SPS interns, parked on a blanket at the base of the Washington Monument. We stayed on the Mall for the entire day, enjoying conversation and picnic foods until finally at 9:00 the fireworks began. Because we are the SPS intern group, we of course took it upon ourselves to turn Independence Day Celebration into a science outreach event. We distributed more than two hundred pairs of diffraction glasses before the fireworks started and informed people on how the light from the different fireworks (and all light) could be broken into its components by the glasses. But even with all of our talk and outreach, I myself wasn't prepared for the spectacle that unfolded beyond the lenses of the diffraction glasses. Our group of interns let out a chorus of "oohs" and "ahhs" and I couldn't help but sing along. While I didn't think it possible, the diffraction glasses made the Fourth of July Fire Works Show on the National Mall ten times better. It was quite the night.

On Saturday, my girlfriend and I, along with Kelby, her friend Katherine, and Jake, drove out to the Udvar-Hazy Smithsonian Air and Space extension. Without a doubt, the extension is my favorite museum I've ever seen. I saw the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first Atomic Bomb during World War II, the Langley Glider, a failed early attempt at manned flight, and of course, the Space Shuttle Discovery. The Shuttle was Larger than I could ever imagine, and more magnificent in person than a person could believe. I personally had an extremely good time taking panoramas with my phone and capturing entire aircrafts in one photo.

On Sunday, my girlfriend and I went out for brunch to a buffet restaurant in Dupont Circle. We ate our fill of delicious omelet's, waffles, bacon and sausage, while enjoying the bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Mary's the restaurant had to offer. It was a wonderful weekend, the only negative moment was the one where I waved goodbye to my girlfriend as she caught the metro towards Vienna and rode away to where she parked her car.


Photos: the Concorde, the Enola Gay, and the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Nick Durofchalk